Body Image and Inadequacy

I love social media. Despite its obvious flaws (trolls, mean girls, instant gratification, highlight reels, etc.), I prefer to see and use the good inherent in it. It connects me to friends that live across oceans, whom I would otherwise never see or hear on a regular basis. It provides me with opinion and viewpoints different from my own. On occasion, when others are brave enough to lift the Instagram filter veil, it lets me know that I am not alone in my struggles. I can only hope that I use my own social media presence to bring the information, encouragement, and happy entertainment that I seek for myself on these platforms.

This morning, on Instagram, Ann Voskamp’s feed gave me this soul nugget:

“The world has enough women who live a masked insecurity. It needs more women who live a brave vulnerability.” – Ann Voskamp

Let me get vulnerable for you. And don’t mistake it for bravery. This is just me working out my knots.

I’ve been struggling with a growing insecurity, trying very hard to mask it. It is deep sense of inadequacy that is directly connected to my body image. As the scale rises, as my closet shrinks, my self-confidence has dropped in correlation. As I made some preparations for trying to conceive (namely going off contraceptives), my stomach and hips have steadily grown. Despite increased efforts of diet and exercise, my hormones are in full control of my body size. I am insecure, embarrassed, inadequate in my helplessness to be the fit girl I identified as. I have connected a large part of my identity with health and fitness, also equating this with body image and body size. This is a mistake on several levels.

First, scientifically, your body size is not a reliable reflection of your actual health and fitness. A 2008 study in The Archives of Internal Medicine looked at several cardiovascular health markers, like cholesterol and blood pressure, in over 5000 adults of various weights. About half of the overweight or obese people in the study had concerning cardiovascular numbers. But that means that half of them were internally healthy! Thin adults were less likely to have unhealthy markers, but about 1/4 of them still had them. Logically, we know carrying extra weight can make you more prone for diabetes and heart disease. But this study clearly documents that body size isn’t a reliable indicator for overall health. There is MUCH more at play.

My head knows this; I have been lapped by many heavier runners on a race course. But it hasn’t taken root in my heart. Which brings me to the next part of my mistaken connection…

Second, and most importantly, body size is not an accurate representation of my identity. I am not my dress size. I am also not my health markers or my fitness level. If I were to get sick or become disabled, I am still the same soul. I am still a child of God, His creation, a daughter and sister in His family, a warrior for the Kingdom, and princess of the King. Every time I throw another too tight pair of pants in the growing pile on my closet floor, I feel like I’m losing a piece of myself. But this is a good lesson. I am learning that my reflection in the mirror doesn’t matter. It is my reflection in the eyes of God that I need to be worried about. I am still in the middle of this battle, but I see the way out.

Another of my favorite social media personalities, Jordan Lee Dooley, creator of Soul Scripts, posted this YouTube video. I want to watch it again and again and again.

 

One of my favorite parts about this conversation, is the recognition that being a child of God, embracing my defining identity as a Christian, does NOT mean that I am ‘letting myself go.’ I am still called to be a good steward of my body, God’s creation. It is a temple for the Holy Spirit, which calls that I treat it with respect and care. I am the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth; the stronger I am, the more I can do for Him. He is glorified in my strength, but He is also present and glorified in my weakness.

As the new year approaches, the temptation to jump into the diet and fitness craze is strong. There’s a motivation in the mob mentality of everyone getting fit, healthy, skinny for the new year. New beginnings are always exciting. I plan to take part in the idea of a fresh start and new focus on health, but I’m expanding the definition of that health to include mind, body, and soul. I want to accept and rejoice in my body, its limitations and its strengths, as a God-given gift. I want to devote myself to its stewardship for His purposes and His delight, not my own worldly concerns of dress sizes and flattering selfies.

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